81 articles Articles posted in Opinion

“It Never Did My Kids Any Harm”

It Never Did My Kids Any HarmWhen Facebook first started, way before I had kids, it was a way to catch up with old friends, let the world know what you were doing, share photos and “poke” people, virtually. It’ll be TEN YEARS AGO this year that I joined Facebook (I know, right?) and in that time, the things I use Facebook for has changed quite dramatically. I think the thing I spend the most time doing on FB now is using groups and I’m in various ones, some for diet and fitness, some for make up and fashion, lots of buying and selling and a couple for parenting, and it’s in that last group where I hear my pet-hate-phrase.

There are lots of different questions to which “it never did my kids any harm” gets trotted out as a standard response, everything from smacking to cot bumpers to sugary drinks to watching Mister Tumble and I really wish it would be stricken from the English vernacular. I think I see it used most often in relation to controlled crying, something to which I’m hugely opposed and I just wish people would see how damaging this kind of ‘echo chamber’ response is.

I get that everyone makes different choices and that’s entirely up to them. It’s also good for everyone to have support and camaraderie, especially when it comes to parenting as it’s a lonely old job at times. However, using your own experience to bias someone else’s choices is SO wrong.

The reason things change as generations move on is because of research and development. We advise against cot bumpers and sleeping in certain positions and sleeping in car seats for extended periods and all of these other things because of years and years of extensive research, NOT because someone, somewhere said “Well, my friend Janet fed her kids lead paint and THEY ALL TURNED OUT OKAY”.

THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS.

I appreciate that there’s a lot of inherited wisdom which is passed from generation to generation, and generally speaking those things are fine, but basing your opinion of a whole facet of parenting on the equivalent of ONE case study is absolutely bonkers. Would you trust a medicine which had been tested by one person? Or drive a car which had only one safety test done on it? No, I don’t think you would.

If we’re being realistic, there are SO many things that older generations did (giving the baby brandy or whisky in their bottle to help it sleep? Giving it a sniff of the gas tap?! Leaving them outside the shops OR EVEN THE PUB in their buggy??!) that you absolutely would never dream of in this day and age.

The fact is, the reason that rules and regulations change is because people spend time and money working things out in a lab, with finely tweaked variables and control tests and all of those other things that we’re supposed to trust. They produce QUANTIFIABLE results. You can say “smacking my kids didn’t do them any harm”, but on what are you basing that? The fact that they aren’t on top of a bell tower with a high-powered rifle? Because, believe me, when it comes to the psychological effects that spill over from childhood there’s still a VAST space between “fine” and “bell tower” and they aren’t all kittens and roses.

The trouble is, people don’t seem to want to listen to quantifiable evidence when they’re of the “never did any harm” school of thought. MY argument against controlled crying comes from reams and reams of research which was done with kids living in orphanages – children who were left to cry for hours on end eventually stopped expecting comfort and therefore stopped asking for it, leading to an inability to effectively produce cortisol in later life, affecting future relationships and greatly increasing the likelihood of depression into adulthood. But if you bring this up, people latch on to the supposed absurdity of comparing their child to an orphan to poo-poo any sort of data. What you’re saying doesn’t reflect their opinion and therefore it MUST be crap.

I’m not advocating the judgement of other people’s methods as such, I just really wish people would think a little beyond this attitude and realise that things move on FOR A REASON. I swear, half the time people use this phrase as a way to make them feel better about their own doubts about methods they used, or as a defence of their own parents because they see criticism of old methods as some sort of accusation of failure.

What do you think? Are you of this school of thought or do you try to follow current advice and research? Is this something which drives you potty, too? Leave me a comment below.

Is it Time for an Intersex Olympics?

Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

(I apologise in advance if I use any incorrect terminology, my aim here is not to offend anyone, only to start a conversation)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the past few days, you can’t fail to have missed the furore surrounding South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and the questions over her gender. In case you have missed it, here’s a TL:DR of the situation: Caster, born in 1991, won a gold medal in Rio in the womens’ Olympics, however there have been complaints from other athletes because she has high levels of testosterone, which they claim gives her an advantage.

Caster Semenya

When I first started reading about this, I came across an article where they said that it had become common practice for Semenya to go into the bathrooms before a race to show one of her competitors her genitals to “prove” her femininity, which sounds absolutely appalling and like a gross invasion of her privacy and I was genuinely shocked to read that she had to go to such lengths to confirm her eligibility to race.

However, the controversy takes a slightly different slant when you consider her internal physiology. You see, according to official reports, Semenya has high levels of testosterone which is produced by internal testes and she also lacks a uterus and ovaries. The officials who deal with eligibility to race have stated that there’s insignificant evidence to suggest that testosterone gives her a significant advantage over the other athletes, however, several other athletes with the same physical attributes as Semenya took steps to change this, as reported in the New York Times:

At the London Olympics, four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone. Each of them subsequently had surgery to remove internal testes, which produce testosterone, as well as procedures that were not required for resuming competition: feminizing vaginoplasty, estrogen replacement therapy and a reduction in the size of the clitoris.

One could argue that many athletes have physical attributes which make them “unusual” in the grand scheme of things, but which give them an advantage when it comes to sporting prowess. Take Miguel Indurain, for instance. He’s a Spanish cyclist who won FIVE consecutive Tour de France in the early to mid-Nineties and is considered cycling royalty to this day. However, he has a huge physical advantage; his blood took almost double the oxygen of a normal person and his cardiac output was 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist’s is about 25 litres. No-one suggested that his physiology was an unfair advantage, just a happy anomaly which, ultimately, made him a legend.

So, if the issue isn’t physiological, then is it a gender issue? Well, Semenya identifies as a woman and has spent her entire life living as a woman; from what I can gather there’s never been any suggestion in her life of any sort of gender dysphoria or questions over how she identifies, which makes it clear cut, right? Maybe not.

Fallon Fox Tamikka Brents

Fallon Fox in white, before her fight with Tamikka Brents (pink bottoms)

Another similar case in sport was that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Featherweight champion Fallon underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 and entered the MMA as a female fighter. Not only has she had her male reproductive organs removed but she has been on hormone therapy for many years, however she’s faced massive opposition and controversy within the MMA community because people feel that her physicality gives her an advantage, not least of all when she fought Tamikka Brents, and “Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to convey her thoughts on the experience of fighting Fox: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…””

Fox argues that her hormone therapy probably means that she actually has LESS testosterone than her competitors, but this doesn’t alter the fact that testosterone played a part on how she developed physically in the first place, until her reassignment surgery.

It’s all such a grey area. Traditionally speaking, men and women have never competed against one another because of the clear physical differences, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no middle ground. Obviously, it’s rare to see a woman who’s the size of say, Mike Tyson, with the same bone structure and heavy musculature, but there are plenty of female fighters who probably make Conor McGregor look like a leprechaun with his featherweight frame. But does size equal strength? No, definitely not.

All of this is leading to a point…honestly!

While I’m not suggesting that being intersex or hormonally different is a disability (quite the opposite, in fact), is it time that we offered an Olympics for competitors where gender isn’t clear-cut, in the same way that we have a Paralympics for differently abled athletes? This way there can’t be any suggestion that they’re somehow exploiting a physical advantage. Issues of gender have become far less taboo in recent years, allowing people to live exactly as they wish to without the previous levels of prejudice, which is great, although there is still a long way to go. Should be we accommodating people for whom gender/sex isn’t black and white? A ‘third-sex’ Olympics? It would certainly level the playing field, but is it getting into dangerous levels of classification and potential prejudice from different angles? Is submitting to hormone tests before being allowed to enter a step too far, or is it no different to submitting to a drugs test to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t used? Is it all just sour grapes from the losing athletes?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please do leave me a comment below!

Why I’m Not A “Cool Mum” (And Why I’m Totally Okay With That)

Cool MumBeing a parent really makes you view things in a totally different way. I was talking to some friends the other day about how, when we were kids, we did the whole ‘hanging out in front of the shops to ask an adult to buy us cigarettes’ thing. We were all saying that, now we’re mums, there’s no way in the WORLD that we’d buy cigarettes for a child who was underage and that when we look back, it was terrible of us to have been coercing adults into our naughtiness, but it’s a prime example of how our views have changed with our personal circumstances.

Last week was Sausage’s school disco and it’s kind of a tradition that I always go along and help out, usually on the stall which sells all the novelty neon crap that the kids absolutely lap up. I commented to another mum that there seemed to be a whole lot more make up, perfume, body glitter and skimpy clothing at this disco, which is mental given the fact that the oldest kids there would have been 9. I know they’re in the juniors now, but it seems like they’ve all suddenly taken a massive leap away from childhood and towards the hairy, scary teen years.

It got me to thinking; should I be letting Sausage experiment with these things more to help her to fit in? Obviously, my brain screamed ‘NO’ before the thought even completely formed, and here’s why: I firmly think that allowing her to wear make-up to events would be selfish of me. You see, I’m completely against it, so if I were to loosen the rules, the ONLY reason would be so that she’d think I was a “cool mum”. I’m sure she’d be thrilled if I let her leave the house in make-up, but who would ultimately benefit?

The thing is, for me, parenthood is about being the bad guy sometimes. I’m sure Sausage would think I was the best Mum ever if I suddenly became permissive and let her wear make up, skimpy clothes, forget her homework, generally get away with living the easy life. But as her mother, it’s ON ME (and Husband, obviously) to make sure she does things, no matter how much it might make her resent us or how horrible it feels to be the bad guy. And, I’ll go as far as to say that, sometimes, I really don’t give a toss how much they hate me – homework needs to be done, manners need to be remembered and some rules MUST be followed, no exceptions.

Don’t get the wrong, I’m not talking about being a hard-ass all the time; she’s a really good kid which means she often gets leniency just because we know she’s the sort of kid who won’t take a mile when given an inch. We use our judgement to decide what’s okay and what’s not and I’m sure that, sometimes, our version of okay is different to what other people might consider suitable (for instance, she’s a huge fan of Bob’s Burgers, which is probably not aimed at her age group but we know she’s mature enough to deal with the slightly more grown-up themes in some episodes).

The main thought that I can’t shake is simply that Mums aren’t supposed  to be cool. Sure, there are times when mine and Sausage’s interests overlap but largely, kids are supposed to cringe at their hideously outdated parents. As a person, I’m not trying to appeal to a 7-year-olds sensibilities and I feel like it would be really weird if I did. It’s one thing to enjoy watching Harry Potter together, but it’s quite another when you realise that the parent is actually sadly immature and is trying to avoid being a grown-up!

However, the fact is, as parent, it’s our job to make the tough decisions, to be the ones to guide the girls in right or wrong and to make them do the things they don’t want to do, regardless of how much it might make them hate us, or how ‘uncool’ we seem. So, you see, I’m absolutely FINE with not being a ‘cool’ mum, because that means that I’m being a good Mum. What do you think? Is it possible to be “cool” and consistent? Do you go our of your way to be a cool Mum or would you rather be seen as a stuffy old adult if it means your kids are safe and happy? I’d love to hear what you think, so do leave me a comment below.

Pyjamas on the School Run

school runUnless you live in a cave with no internet access, you’ll likely have seen the stories all over the news about one headteacher who came out to slam the school run mums who have been wearing their PJ’s for the morning drop-off. She reportedly sent a text to parents stating “have noticed that there has been an increasing tendency for parents to escort children to and from school while still wearing their pyjamas and, on occasion, even slippers. Could I please ask that when you are escorting your children, you take the time to dress appropriately in daywear that is suitable for the weather conditions?”

It’s one of those topics that pops up every now and again, usually in a Mumsnet community thread, where everyone will air their opinions, but for a headteacher to now comment, the debate seems to have been lifted to a new level.

I have a love/hate relationship with the school run. On the one hand, I hate the stresses of getting both girls ready in time, piling them into the car on cold mornings and eventually having to say goodbye to Sausage for six and a half hours, 5 days a week. Having said that, we also get some really nice time together to chat, listen to music and connect for little while, which is something I love. Now that we live further away from school, we have to leave the house at 8am every day in order to beat the traffic and get a parking space within a decent distance of the school, so our school run is over an hour by the time I get back home in the mornings, meaning we have to get up earlier than ever.

I think I speak for a LOT of stay-at-home Mums when I say that getting ME ready in the mornings is an absolute last priority on the list. When you’ve got children who need to be fed, watered, clothed, hair brushed, bags packed, various bits of homework remembered, drinks bottle filled, and myriad other things, being presentable myself is only just about on the radar. If I were going straight to work or out for some important engagement after the school run, things might be different, but if it’s a toss-up between an extra five minutes in bed or putting on mascara, I know which one I’ll choose.

I also feel that, as long as Sausage is cared for and presented to school on time and in order, what the hell does it matter what I look like? I’m not there for a fashion parade and I certainly don’t care what anyone else is wearing. Headteachers are certainly not paid to judge parents unless it’s a matter of welfare for their pupils. I cannot help but think that the headteacher who spoke out did so on a popularly contentious subject knowing that they’d get their five minutes of fame from it all.

Having said all of that, I do think there’s something a little off about pyjamas in the playground. It doesn’t take much to stick on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, even if you have a shower once you get home. It definitely sends a message to the kids that it’s okay to have low standards – I wouldn’t take Sausage or BB anywhere in their pyjamas but if they were to see me doing it they’d get the impression that it was an okay thing to do.

What do you think? Should teachers keep their opinions to themselves? Are we all just busy mums trying to stay on top of everything? Should we be showing our kids that we value ourselves a little bit more by taking even 5 minutes for ourselves? I’d love to know what you all think so please leave me a comment below.

Raising Pragmatists – Parenting Without God

It’s pretty safe to say that religion is not something which factors very highly on mine and Husband’s list when it comes to parenting our girls. We’ve taught them the basics about what each of the major religions involve and have told them that, if they choose to, they’re welcome to explore faith if it appeals to them, but we certainly don’t follow any religion ourselves and usually strive to separate the girls from these kinds of teachings. While this may seem like our household is “lacking” in something because of our aversion to faith, I actually think that it makes our jobs as parents a lot harder, in two specific ways.

Firstly, there’s the issue of death. When Husband and I have broached this subject in the past with Sausage (BB is still far too young and is mostly only concerned with cake and Mr. Tumble), we don’t have tales of fluffy white clouds and angels with harps to pass on. Husband and I feel that humans have energy and that energy is reabsorbed into the earth when we die, but beyond that there’s nothing. It’s really hard to look your child in the eye and tell them that we won’t live on together in eternity, as much as I would love that to be the case. Expecting a child to be pragmatic enough to deal with the thought that, one day, we won’t be together anymore and we won’t be skipping around in Heaven together is really quite tough.

When my stepmum passed away in 2011, Sausage was just three. Lorraine was another pragmatist and had a Humanistic funeral, presided over by a minister who talked not about God but about people and life and living as a good person. When we spoke to Sausage about her passing, we were careful not to say “Lorraine has gone to Heaven”, both as a way to respect Lorraine’s wishes but also to convey our own views on the situation, but whenever anyone else mentions death around the kids, they tend to soften things by saying that the person had gone to Heaven. While I respect people’s views, I can’t help but wonder if they’re making things easier for themselves because they don’t have to broach the subject of nothing after death, just as much as they are softening things for the kids.pragmatism

The other issue, whilst still Heaven related, is the issue of morality. Husband and I can’t teach our girls that if they aren’t “good” then they won’t go to Heaven or that bad people get their comeuppance in Hell. They don’t have the looming threat of eternal damnation keeping them in line, they simply have to self-moderate and apply what we’ve passed on in terms of ‘how to be a good person’. Anyone who knows our girls knows that they’re both really decent little people, with kind hearts and mindful attitudes (again, I’m talking about Sausage here more than BB, she’s still a work in progress!), both of which have been achieved without religion. It makes me really proud of Sausage to know that, when she’s being a good person, it’s not for the sake of a Heavenly trade-off, it’s because she’s a genuinely good person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing people who’ve got faith and pass it on to their children; I’m all for personal choice and as long as people respect my right to live without faith, I’ll respect their right to have it. All I’m saying is, religion must make certain aspects of child-rearing a lot simpler.

What do you think? Are you raising faithless pragmatists? How do you broach the difficult subjects without making things seem too stark or scary? Do you use the phrase “going to Heaven” even though you don’t believe it? I’d love to hear your views, please leave me a comment below.

Is Halloween Becoming Too Sexualised?

podvx59hoo1d1tcJust recently, I was asked to look at the results of a survey conducted by My Voucher Codes (which was also reported on in the Daily Mail) which showed that over half of UK citizens think that Halloween costumes have become too sexualised. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot myself lately, especially seeing as Sausage is now taking an interest in Halloween and insisted that we go costume shopping today.

According to the results of the survey:

  • Fifty eight percent of men did not think women’s Halloween costumes were over-sexualised.
  • On the other hand, 66% of women stated they thought costumes on sale were over-sexualised
  • The majority (76%) of those aged over 55 felt that the costumes on sale for children were not age appropriate
  • Thirty four percent of 18 to 24 years olds did not have a problem with the clothing on sale for children and did not find them inappropriate
  • Parents are not impressed with children’s Halloween costumes on sale, with 83% finding them to be inappropriate for the age at which they are marketed.

I have to say, having spent a good while trawling through rails and rails of costumes, I was totally dismayed to see how sexed up some of them were. Sausage is absolutely bonkers about cats and would have quite liked to dress up as one, but the only set we could find with a tail and mask included also came with a t-shirt which said “sexy kitty”. In a size 8-9 years. Needless to say, I left the shop in question rather sharpish.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a chance to be scary and outlandish – costumes came with a novelty meat cleaver and certainly didn’t have concern for how much cleavage one might be able to show, so this move toward the sexy rather than the scary is totally baffling to me and I certainly won’t be adorning my kids in any such nonsense.

Mark Pearson, founder of My Voucher Codes commented on the findings:

“Halloween is meant to be a time where you dress up in scary costumes, not sexy. Our results show that many women feel that the choice available to them is not equal to men’s choices with the main focus of the outfit being sexy rather than scary.”

He added:

“We can see that some outfits on sale for children are also inappropriate for the age ranges the clothes fit. Whether they are a scary film character a child should not know about or a rather revealing outfit for a young girl. Obviously many parents feel the same, which is why it is important to push for more family friendly costumes this Halloween.”

The Fappening

Jennifer LawrenceUnless you’ve been living in a cave in deepest, darkest Guatemala for the past three months, you will no doubt have heard of ‘The Fappening’. To be fair, you may not have heard that particular (and fairly distasteful) expression, but you’ll definitely have heard about the hackers who are breaching the iCloud security of various celebrities and selling their intimate photos to the highest bidder. The likes of Aubrey Plaza, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and many more have had their images splashed around the internet and other media.

There’s been a lot of discussion, from all angles. Some idiots people have been saying that these women are public figures and shouldn’t take intimate pictures if they don’t want them leaked, others have said that they must’ve wanted people to see the images if they took them in the first place and I can’t even begin to explain how much this kind of victim-blaming bullshit annoys me. Privacy is a basic human right, no matter how public your chosen career. Just because Kate Upton makes her money in bikinis, it doesn’t mean we own the right to see her personal, private photos, any more than being an accountant means you’re obliged to do the tax return of everyone you know during your spare time (very skewed analogy, I know, but BB’s not sleeping well)

Then, Jennifer Lawrence said this:

It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.

Now, I’m a huge fan of J-Law but I’ve got to admit, I stepped back from that statement with a sharp intake of breath. Branding this is sexual violation seemed like a very strong statement to make. I started thinking about women who’d suffered sexual abuse, rape, sexual violence and it made Jennifer Lawrence’s assessment seem rather grandiose to me. Being looked at is in no way comparable to rape, is it?

Then I thought back to something which happened to me when I was 20. I was walking to a careers evening at my local hospital, which was at the end of a busy dual carriageway with a tree-covered path on one side. As I was walking along, I saw a man in the bushes at the other side of the road, trying to catch my attention and as I looked over he started masturbating. As he stood there in the bushes touching himself, my anger kicked in and I actually chased him away, before stopping and realising he was a fully grown man who could hurt me a lot more than I hurt him.

No, this man didn’t touch me in any way but his act still felt like sexual violence. He was gratified by my shock and disgust and used me to get sexual satisfaction in his depraved way. While I’m not comparing any person who’s enjoyed J-Law’s image to a sexual criminal, I completely understand how you can feel violated by someone’s unwanted attention. Incidentally, the police never caught the flasher, but I saw him a few years later in a local paper after having been convicted of several rapes and sexual assaults, so what happened still haunts me.

It’s easy to write off what has happened to these women as ‘just photos being looked at’, but having your most intimate images splashed across the internet for all to see must be absolutely mortifying and the thought that so many people are viewing them is enough to make your skin crawl. These women should be able to take whatever damn pictures of themselves on their mobile devices without the fear that they’re going to be stolen and I’m really sad that we live in a world where privacy is so undervalued and can be sold off to the highest bidder.

So, what do you think? Is this an act of sexual crime, or is Jennifer Lawrence undermining ‘real’ sexual assault by saying so? Has anything similar ever happened to you? Leave me a comment below.

Breastfeeding in Public – What’s Your Opinion?

Just recently, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk conducted a survey about breastfeeding in public and the results were picked up by the Daily Mail, who ran an article about it yesterday. I was actually surprised to read, considering all of the negative stories that we hear about breastfeeding, that almost 70% of British people feel that women should be able to breastfeed anywhere in public, even bars and restaurants. It’s really heartening to read that it’s now becoming a social norm rather than some sort of stigmatised or shameful act and despite not being a breastfeeder myself, I’m thrilled that my best friend or family or daughters will be able to nourish their babies whenever they need to.

Last week, a story went viral about a family who changed a dirty nappy at the table of a restaurant, rather than retreating to a bathroom and whilst I was absolutely disgusted at the thought of being subjected to this as a neighbouring diner, it did make me think of all the times that breastfeeding mothers have been told that they should be sitting in a toilet to feed. How is feeding your child in a place intended for ablutions any less disgusting than changing a nappy next someone who’s eating? Poop and food don’t mix, from either side of the spectrum and I hope people think about this a little more before asking breastfeeding mothers to make this sacrifice.

I can’t help but wonder if the current slew of celebrity breastfeeding selfies are helping to normalise the process. In the past few months, we’ve seen supermodels and actresses taking breastfeeding selfies and tweeting or Instagramming them, showing that breastfeeding is a normal, beautiful act and that even on women who are lusted after by millions, breasts needn’t be sexualised permanently.

breastfeeding celebs

As a bottle-feeder by choice, I’ve been frowned upon and lambasted by heathcare professionsals and other mothers, and I’ve been known to use the phrase ‘breastapo’ on more than one occasion, but I think there’s a huge difference between women who proudly feed and aren’t afraid to be part of the movement which is normalising public feeding and people who feel the need to bully bottle-feeders for their choices. Whilst breastfeeding isn’t for me (and it’s a choice over which I agonised and have many deep-seated reasons for making), I can see the true beauty of breastfeeding and the closeness shared between mother and baby.

One of my favourite tweeters is Lucy Aitken-Read. You might know of her because of the no-poo revolution which has been taking off (and has also been featured in the national press), but she’s a prolific blogger at Lulastic and the hippyshake and Wonderthrift and often shares the most incredible shots of herself feeding her daughters. She shows that you don’t have to be a celebrity with a million stylists and hairdressers to show the beauty of breastfeeding, and in fact she looks MORE beautiful for the ease and naturalness which exudes from her shots.

So, where do you stand on the debate? Are you happy to see women feeding in public or do you think it’s something which should be kept behind closed doors? Are you a breastfeeder and if so, do you feed happily in public and have you ever received criticism for doing so? I’d love to hear some first hand experiences from my readers, so do leave me a comment below.

Nurturing Their Dreams

Kid dreaming of being an astronautWhen I was a kid, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I was older. I was a relatively intelligent child and achieved well at school, so from a very young age there were a lot of expectations piled upon me from parents and teachers. Eventually, I passed my 11+ and was sent to a grammar school, where instead of being the brightest in my class, I was one of many clever girls and I hovered somewhere around the middle, in terms of achievement. It was drummed into us from the beginning that we had to constantly have our eye on the distance – end of year exam results dictated which GCSE options we were allowed to take, and we’d need to choose the right GCSE’s to allows us to take the A-Levels we wanted, which in turn were for the purpose of gaining access to the right degree course at the right university.

I was, and still am, a fairly shiftless person. My big dream when I was little was to be an Astronaut – sounds far fetched, but I intended to join the RAF out of sixth form and gain University sponsorship from them, with the hope of going on to train to be a pilot. Once I was told that I had zero chance of flying a plane because of my horrendous eyesight, I went into something of a tailspin. I could never really pinpoint what I wanted to be, and the thought that my career would define the rest of my life never sat well with me anyway.

I can’t help but wonder if my childhood intelligence (which, I have to say, seems considerably dulled by age) is part of the problem. I remember, for a long time, thinking that I’d be a hairdresser when I got older, except when I expressed this to my parents, I was told “You’re too clever to be a hairdresser”. This became a running theme in my adolescence and my passions were trampled under the weight of what I ‘should’ have been doing with my brain. Drama became my new passion and I was pretty good at it, too. I’m fairly extroverted and love performing but once again, it wasn’t considered cerebral enough. I was allowed to take Drama at A-Level, but only as a concession because I took four other ‘serious’ subjects (Chemistry, Biology, English Literature and English Language).

As it stands, I flunked out of sixth form; the mounting pressure got too much and I found myself being anywhere but the lessons I was supposed to be attending. I can’t help but wonder if I’d have been more inclined to attend if I’d not been steered towards subjects that I didn’t really want to take?

Sausage is an incredible kid, with a great imagination, huge intellect (she’s currently reading books at home which are for 8-year-olds, because her school books aren’t challenging enough) and artistic flair. She’s got the potential to be anything she wants to be, but I remind myself almost daily that the key part of that sentence is “SHE WANTS”. We spend so much time telling our kids that they can be anything they want to be and then second guessing their choices because they don’t sit well with our plans for their lives and it’s about time we stopped being so bloody arrogant.

Just this morning, Sausage told me that we wanted to be a nail technician and masseuse. One side of my brain said “That won’t earn you much money. You’ve got so much more potential than that. Why don’t you do that as a hobby, instead?”, but I managed to stop myself from saying it out loud. I adjusted my brain and instead thought “If that’s what makes you happy, then I’ll support you”. And, isn’t that what’s important? Supporting our kids in their choices and nurturing their happiness?

It is to us, at least.

Why I Don’t Care if Ellen Page is Gay

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I became aware of Ellen Page back in about 2006, when Husband told me about this film he’d watched where a young woman entrapped and brutalised a paedophile, mostly for shits and giggles, which had an awesome actress playing the lead role. If you’re aware of Hard Candy, you’ll know that a young Ellen Page gave a performance which was as convincing as it was memorable and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Skip forward a couple of years; Husband and a very pregnant me sat and watched Juno, a film which handled the issue of teen pregnancy with a grace that had never been seen before. Here, we were faced with a young woman who, while on the surface may have been a bit off-beat, was conscious and uncompromising in her decision about what to do with the life of the child that she knew, ultimately, she wasn’t ready for. Juno was a kid who fucked up, had an accident, did what so many others do, but the way she dealt with it (and the space and respect that her parents showed her in dealing with it) reflected what a kid can really do, under such enormous pressure. I cannot imagine anyone else playing that role.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Ellen in various films, such as Inception, X-Men, The East and Whip It (a particular favourite which has made me desperately want to learn to skate so I can try roller derby!) and I can honestly say I don’t think she’s made a bad choice or put in a bad performance.

Aside from her impressive career, she seems to be a pretty impressive person, too. Away from the spotlight, the (self-confessed) “tiny Canadian” has involved herself with various humanitarian issues, such as campaigning to end the military dictatorship in Myanmar, Burma and also appealing for The New York City Food Bank.

Of course, there’s long been speculation as to her sexuality. Her ‘conspicuous’ lack of male escort at various award ceremonies never fails to set tongues wagging and her graceful but slightly awkward avoidance about whether she ever had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in various press junkets leading up to the release of Inception caused even more hyperbole (although, quite why anyone thinks that’s an appropriate question of a professional actor, I don’t know. Would it ever have been asked of a man?!).

Ellen’s self-outing was delivered at the Human Rights Campaigns Time to THRIVE conference, where she decided to use her personal life, and effectively sacrifice her well-protected privacy, to campaign for the safety and well-being of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the globe. She’s unleashed her truth in the most conscientious way possible, in a way that doesn’t benefit her, but will hopefully help millions of other people across the globe. She says she’s “tired of lying by omission” and hopes that her coming out will help others to have the strength to be open about their sexuality, too.

So, while the title of this post may come across as slightly glib, I really do mean it. I adore this young woman and everything she stands for. As a mother to (almost) two girls, I feel that I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that there are women like her out there, setting an example of strength and selflessness and showing that above all else, being yourself is the best thing you can possibly be.

Who Ellen Page chooses to fall in love with is of absolutely ZERO consequence to anyone but herself and her chosen partner and what I hope is that we can start to end the process of defining people by their sexuality. It simply does not matter whether a person is gay or straight or any of the other shades of the Rainbow. What matters is how they choose to live their life and the way they treat others around them. Of course, I believe people should be proud of who they are, and their sexuality, to an extent, factors into the person as a whole, but there’s so much more to everyone than that one small factor.

Anyway, its 4.16am, I’m sitting in a darkened maternity ward and probably rambling somewhat now, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the page and say that I wish Ellen a lifetime of happiness and love.

That’s all.